Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 10, 2009

Egypt Bets on Israel

In today’s New York Times, Michael Slackman offers another boilerplate criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza: that it is inflaming Islamists (or, the analytically meaningless “Arab street”), thereby undermining secular Arab regimes that are friendly to the United States.  Keeping with his pseudo-journalistic strategy of interviewing any English-speaking Egyptian he can find – whether an “expert” or just some random guy on the street – who supports his own outlook (h/t Soccer Dad), Slackman writes:

Nowhere in the Arab world is the gap between the street and the government so wide as here in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and has refused to allow free passage of goods and people through its border with Gaza, a decision that has been attacked by Islamic and Arab leaders and proved deeply troubling to many Egyptians. And so the government of President Hosni Mubarak appeared to lean back on its standard formula for preserving authority at Friday Prayer, relying on its security forces to keep calm on the street and government religious institutions like Al Azhar to try to appease public sentiment, in this case by lashing out at the Jews in response to Gaza.

One wonders how this dog-bites-man news item made the front page of today’s paper.  Slackman should know better: the divide between Egypt’s secular authoritarian government and its vocal Islamist opponents is nothing new, and there is certainly no sign that this gap has widened over the past two weeks.  Indeed, even amidst the most minor international incidents involving Islam, anti-Semitic sermons at Al-Azhar mosque – which the Egyptian government controls – are standard fare.  (I happen to know this firsthand: I attended Friday services at Al-Azhar immediately following the Pope’s critical comments on Muhammad, and was treated to a sermon much like the one that Slackman describes – from the very same imam, no less.)

Actually, the real news item is buried towards the end of this article: Slackman notes that Islamists had intended to stage an anti-Israel demonstration outside of Al-Azhar following yesterday’s services, but were deterred by an overwhelming police presence.  This is remarkably different from the 2006 Lebanon War, when Islamists staged tremendous protests throughout downtown Cairo, forcing the Mubarak regime to retreat from its initial support for Israel’s attack on Hezbollah.  Naturally, Slackman attempts to hide this inconvenient fact: he claims that domestic support for Hamas – even without the demonstrations – has pressured Egypt to abandon its early support for Israel during the current conflict.

Of course, Slackman is totally wrong.  If anything, the Egyptian government has doubled down on Israel: beyond supporting a truce that favors Israeli objectives, it is blocking domestic Islamist demonstrations against Israel to a nearly unprecedented extent.  In turn, we have the best evidence yet of Israel’s success against Hamas: Hosni Mubarak – the Middle East’s longest serving dictator after Qaddafi – always bets on the winning horse. 

In today’s New York Times, Michael Slackman offers another boilerplate criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza: that it is inflaming Islamists (or, the analytically meaningless “Arab street”), thereby undermining secular Arab regimes that are friendly to the United States.  Keeping with his pseudo-journalistic strategy of interviewing any English-speaking Egyptian he can find – whether an “expert” or just some random guy on the street – who supports his own outlook (h/t Soccer Dad), Slackman writes:

Nowhere in the Arab world is the gap between the street and the government so wide as here in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and has refused to allow free passage of goods and people through its border with Gaza, a decision that has been attacked by Islamic and Arab leaders and proved deeply troubling to many Egyptians. And so the government of President Hosni Mubarak appeared to lean back on its standard formula for preserving authority at Friday Prayer, relying on its security forces to keep calm on the street and government religious institutions like Al Azhar to try to appease public sentiment, in this case by lashing out at the Jews in response to Gaza.

One wonders how this dog-bites-man news item made the front page of today’s paper.  Slackman should know better: the divide between Egypt’s secular authoritarian government and its vocal Islamist opponents is nothing new, and there is certainly no sign that this gap has widened over the past two weeks.  Indeed, even amidst the most minor international incidents involving Islam, anti-Semitic sermons at Al-Azhar mosque – which the Egyptian government controls – are standard fare.  (I happen to know this firsthand: I attended Friday services at Al-Azhar immediately following the Pope’s critical comments on Muhammad, and was treated to a sermon much like the one that Slackman describes – from the very same imam, no less.)

Actually, the real news item is buried towards the end of this article: Slackman notes that Islamists had intended to stage an anti-Israel demonstration outside of Al-Azhar following yesterday’s services, but were deterred by an overwhelming police presence.  This is remarkably different from the 2006 Lebanon War, when Islamists staged tremendous protests throughout downtown Cairo, forcing the Mubarak regime to retreat from its initial support for Israel’s attack on Hezbollah.  Naturally, Slackman attempts to hide this inconvenient fact: he claims that domestic support for Hamas – even without the demonstrations – has pressured Egypt to abandon its early support for Israel during the current conflict.

Of course, Slackman is totally wrong.  If anything, the Egyptian government has doubled down on Israel: beyond supporting a truce that favors Israeli objectives, it is blocking domestic Islamist demonstrations against Israel to a nearly unprecedented extent.  In turn, we have the best evidence yet of Israel’s success against Hamas: Hosni Mubarak – the Middle East’s longest serving dictator after Qaddafi – always bets on the winning horse. 

Read Less

UN Reality

Thursday night’s UN Security Council resolution on the Gaza war barely made headlines in the West. That’s probably because it was really bad news, all in all, for Hamas.

True, it calls for an “immediate” cease-fire in Gaza. Yet the whole phrase is “immediate, durable, and fully respected” — which is just the kind of cease-fire Israel has been calling for as well. This is only the beginning. Consider:

1. Israel is not condemned anywhere in the resolution. The only condemnation is against “all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.” Simply read, this is a condemnation of Hamas alone.

2. The resolution does not demand the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, but only that the cease-fire “lead… to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. ” Again, Israel has no problem with this.

3. The only country mentioned by name in the context of efforts to achieve a cease-fire is Egypt. Yet Egypt wants, probably more than any other Arab country, the utter removal of Hamas from the scene. Any cease-fire brokered by Egypt will see to Egyptian interests as a first order of business.

Of course it would be nice if the diplomats of the world could speak freely, and just say what they actually believe: that Israel is acting fully in its right to defend itself against months and years of Hamas’s attacks on its civilians.

Thursday night’s UN Security Council resolution on the Gaza war barely made headlines in the West. That’s probably because it was really bad news, all in all, for Hamas.

True, it calls for an “immediate” cease-fire in Gaza. Yet the whole phrase is “immediate, durable, and fully respected” — which is just the kind of cease-fire Israel has been calling for as well. This is only the beginning. Consider:

1. Israel is not condemned anywhere in the resolution. The only condemnation is against “all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.” Simply read, this is a condemnation of Hamas alone.

2. The resolution does not demand the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, but only that the cease-fire “lead… to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. ” Again, Israel has no problem with this.

3. The only country mentioned by name in the context of efforts to achieve a cease-fire is Egypt. Yet Egypt wants, probably more than any other Arab country, the utter removal of Hamas from the scene. Any cease-fire brokered by Egypt will see to Egyptian interests as a first order of business.

Of course it would be nice if the diplomats of the world could speak freely, and just say what they actually believe: that Israel is acting fully in its right to defend itself against months and years of Hamas’s attacks on its civilians.

Read Less

A Threat to the Jewish People

Many of Israel’s most vocal critics are big on pointing out that their criticism is not anti-Semitic, but anti-Israel. Oftentimes their disapproval of the Jewish state is matched in fervor only by their moral indignation at being labeled a Jew-hater. In yesterday’s OC Register, Mark Steyn offers a little survey of the anti-Israel goings on around the globe:

In Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators yell “You are the brothers of pigs!,” and a protester complains to his interviewer that “Hitler didn’t do a good job.”

In Fort Lauderdale, Palestinian supporters sneer at Jews, “You need a big oven, that’s what you need!”

In Amsterdam, the crowd shouts, “Hamas, Hamas! Jews to the gas!”

In Paris, the state-owned TV network France-2 broadcasts film of dozens of dead Palestinians killed in an Israeli air raid on New Year’s Day. The channel subsequently admits that, in fact, the footage is not from Jan. 1, 2009, but from 2005, and, while the corpses are certainly Palestinian, they were killed when a truck loaded with Hamas explosives detonated prematurely while leaving the Jabaliya refugee camp in another of those unfortunate work-related accidents to which Gaza is sadly prone. Conceding that the Palestinians supposedly killed by Israel were, alas, killed by Hamas, France-2 says the footage was broadcast “accidentally.”

In Toulouse, a synagogue is firebombed; in Bordeaux, two kosher butchers are attacked; at the Auber RER train station, a Jewish man is savagely assaulted by 20 youths taunting, “Palestine will kill the Jews”; in Villiers-le-Bel, a Jewish schoolgirl is brutally beaten by a gang jeering, “Jews must die.”

In Helsingborg, Sweden, the congregation at a synagogue takes shelter as a window is broken and burning cloths thrown in. in Odense, principal Olav Nielsen announces that he will no longer admit Jewish children to the local school after a Dane of Lebanese extraction goes to the shopping mall and shoots two men working at the Dead Sea Products store. in Brussels, a Molotov cocktail is hurled at a synagogue; in Antwerp, Netherlands, lit rags are pushed through the mail flap of a Jewish home; and, across the Channel in Britain, “youths” attempt to burn the Brondesbury Park Synagogue.

In London, the police advise British Jews to review their security procedures because of potential revenge attacks. The Sun reports “fears” that “Islamic extremists” are drawing up a “hit list” of prominent Jews, including the Foreign Secretary, Amy Winehouse’s record producer and the late Princess of Wales’ divorce lawyer. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Islamic nonextremists from the British Muslim Forum, the Islamic Foundation and other impeccably respectable “moderate” groups have warned the government that the Israelis’ “disproportionate force” in Gaza risks inflaming British Muslims, “reviving extremist groups,” and provoking “UK terrorist attacks” – not against Amy Winehouse’s record producer and other sinister members of the International Jewish Conspiracy but against targets of, ah, more general interest.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, the Jewish people around the world are at risk because  Israel is defending its right to exist.

Many of Israel’s most vocal critics are big on pointing out that their criticism is not anti-Semitic, but anti-Israel. Oftentimes their disapproval of the Jewish state is matched in fervor only by their moral indignation at being labeled a Jew-hater. In yesterday’s OC Register, Mark Steyn offers a little survey of the anti-Israel goings on around the globe:

In Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators yell “You are the brothers of pigs!,” and a protester complains to his interviewer that “Hitler didn’t do a good job.”

In Fort Lauderdale, Palestinian supporters sneer at Jews, “You need a big oven, that’s what you need!”

In Amsterdam, the crowd shouts, “Hamas, Hamas! Jews to the gas!”

In Paris, the state-owned TV network France-2 broadcasts film of dozens of dead Palestinians killed in an Israeli air raid on New Year’s Day. The channel subsequently admits that, in fact, the footage is not from Jan. 1, 2009, but from 2005, and, while the corpses are certainly Palestinian, they were killed when a truck loaded with Hamas explosives detonated prematurely while leaving the Jabaliya refugee camp in another of those unfortunate work-related accidents to which Gaza is sadly prone. Conceding that the Palestinians supposedly killed by Israel were, alas, killed by Hamas, France-2 says the footage was broadcast “accidentally.”

In Toulouse, a synagogue is firebombed; in Bordeaux, two kosher butchers are attacked; at the Auber RER train station, a Jewish man is savagely assaulted by 20 youths taunting, “Palestine will kill the Jews”; in Villiers-le-Bel, a Jewish schoolgirl is brutally beaten by a gang jeering, “Jews must die.”

In Helsingborg, Sweden, the congregation at a synagogue takes shelter as a window is broken and burning cloths thrown in. in Odense, principal Olav Nielsen announces that he will no longer admit Jewish children to the local school after a Dane of Lebanese extraction goes to the shopping mall and shoots two men working at the Dead Sea Products store. in Brussels, a Molotov cocktail is hurled at a synagogue; in Antwerp, Netherlands, lit rags are pushed through the mail flap of a Jewish home; and, across the Channel in Britain, “youths” attempt to burn the Brondesbury Park Synagogue.

In London, the police advise British Jews to review their security procedures because of potential revenge attacks. The Sun reports “fears” that “Islamic extremists” are drawing up a “hit list” of prominent Jews, including the Foreign Secretary, Amy Winehouse’s record producer and the late Princess of Wales’ divorce lawyer. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Islamic nonextremists from the British Muslim Forum, the Islamic Foundation and other impeccably respectable “moderate” groups have warned the government that the Israelis’ “disproportionate force” in Gaza risks inflaming British Muslims, “reviving extremist groups,” and provoking “UK terrorist attacks” – not against Amy Winehouse’s record producer and other sinister members of the International Jewish Conspiracy but against targets of, ah, more general interest.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, the Jewish people around the world are at risk because  Israel is defending its right to exist.

Read Less

Watching Pirates

As Max noted, Somali pirates released the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker seized in November.  The U.S. Navy photographed the $3 million ransom dropped onto the ship by a remote-controlled parachute.

Did we try to apprehend the Somalis once they released the ship and its crew?  No, we did not.

We didn’t?  We didn’t do anything to stop the perpetrators even though we were close enough to record the events on film.

We should have captured or killed the Somalis instead of idly observing their chance drowning. Every pirate has now realized that the mightiest nation in history has, by its own hand, made itself weak and ineffectual.  This wasn’t “restraint”-it was paralysis.

And why should we care?  Because every rogue leader, dictator, and autocrat has also watched events off the coast of Somalia and learned the same lesson.

We may not deserve what happens next, but we should not be surprised when it occurs.

As Max noted, Somali pirates released the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker seized in November.  The U.S. Navy photographed the $3 million ransom dropped onto the ship by a remote-controlled parachute.

Did we try to apprehend the Somalis once they released the ship and its crew?  No, we did not.

We didn’t?  We didn’t do anything to stop the perpetrators even though we were close enough to record the events on film.

We should have captured or killed the Somalis instead of idly observing their chance drowning. Every pirate has now realized that the mightiest nation in history has, by its own hand, made itself weak and ineffectual.  This wasn’t “restraint”-it was paralysis.

And why should we care?  Because every rogue leader, dictator, and autocrat has also watched events off the coast of Somalia and learned the same lesson.

We may not deserve what happens next, but we should not be surprised when it occurs.

Read Less

Unconvincing Talking Points

IHT:

A top Hamas leader said Saturday the Gaza war has ended chances of negotiations with Israel and called on Arabs to pressure the Jewish State to end its attacks on Gaza Strip.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made his fiery speech on the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera…”You have finished off the last chance and breath for settlement and negotiations,” he said…

So, before the war, Hamas wanted “negotiations and settlement” with Israel? That’s good for a laugh.

Now, watch how quickly the Juan Cole/Daniel Levy/Juicebox Mafia faction will seize on this comment and say: Do you see how Israeli military action is self-defeating? Look at how it’s radicalized Khaled Mashaal.

IHT:

A top Hamas leader said Saturday the Gaza war has ended chances of negotiations with Israel and called on Arabs to pressure the Jewish State to end its attacks on Gaza Strip.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made his fiery speech on the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera…”You have finished off the last chance and breath for settlement and negotiations,” he said…

So, before the war, Hamas wanted “negotiations and settlement” with Israel? That’s good for a laugh.

Now, watch how quickly the Juan Cole/Daniel Levy/Juicebox Mafia faction will seize on this comment and say: Do you see how Israeli military action is self-defeating? Look at how it’s radicalized Khaled Mashaal.

Read Less

Talk About Poetic Justice . . .

According to the Associated Press, “Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized.”

According to the Associated Press, “Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized.”

Read Less

Forget the Honeymoon — Get a Marriage Counselor

The Senate Democrats are not amused with the handling of the Roland Burris mess. (Re-enacting a scene from the civil rights era – in which a neatly attired African-American man gets thrown out of a building to huddle in the rain — was one heck of a way to start the session, wasn’t it?) They are mad at the Senate leaders and at the President-elect according to this report:

Democrats angry over the botched handling of the Roland Burris imbroglio are putting the blame on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin and President-elect Barack Obama — even as new legal developments in Illinois throw the issue back to the Senate again.

Democratic sources say that Reid and Durbin underestimated the storm that would be caused by their attempt to deny a seat to a 71-year-old African-American.

“Reid operates in this tight, little circle with Durbin and [Sen. Charles] Schumer and [Sen. Patty] Murray,” complained one veteran Democratic senator, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “He needs to talk to more people, and maybe these kinds of situations won’t occur again.”

Other Democratic insiders put some of the blame on Obama, complaining that he kept his distance from the Burris controversy then jumped in at the end to claim the mantle of peacemaker — much as he did in the flap over Sen. Joe Lieberman’s support of Republican John McCain’s presidential bid.

“A lot of people were pissed” with how the Burris situation was handled, said a Democratic source involved in the discussions.

Yikes. But in fairness, with the exception of Sen. Diane Feinstein, I didn’t see too many other Democrats popping up to say, “This is dumb.”

Does this have any ramifications down the road? Well, the President-elect who, however briefly, did hold a Senate seat seems not to have mastered the art of dealing with former colleagues. Part of the problem stems from the natural inclination to run from the scene of disasters — which often seem to pop up in Harry Reid’s vicinity. And the Obama team hasn’t quite come to grips with the difference between a candidate and a party leader/President. The former could avoid comment and gently distance himself from miscreants; the latter has to resolve food fights before they spatter him. And yes, part of problems is that the Obama team, whether in dealing with Blago or in selecting Bill Richardson, has a tin ear for political scandal. So the relations with Capitol Hill may not be so cozy.

The article reveals another problem: the Senate Democrats don’t much like or respect Reid. Republicans might cackle that the Democrats are just coming around to this realization. Nevertheless, there is a difference between a Senate leader of the opposite party, whose job it is to annoy, frustrate and criticize the White House, and a Senate leader of the same party, whose job it is to build coalitions to pass the President’s agenda and grease the skids for legislation. Reid  seems spectacularly ill-suited to fill the latter role. But he’s the chosen leader, and unless more calamities befall the Senate, that’s the position in which Reid will remain. The Senate Democrats’ success (and many of their members’ re-election prospects) will depend as will, to a great extent, the Obama legislative agenda, on the extent of Reid’s finesse. Good luck, fellas.

The Senate Democrats are not amused with the handling of the Roland Burris mess. (Re-enacting a scene from the civil rights era – in which a neatly attired African-American man gets thrown out of a building to huddle in the rain — was one heck of a way to start the session, wasn’t it?) They are mad at the Senate leaders and at the President-elect according to this report:

Democrats angry over the botched handling of the Roland Burris imbroglio are putting the blame on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin and President-elect Barack Obama — even as new legal developments in Illinois throw the issue back to the Senate again.

Democratic sources say that Reid and Durbin underestimated the storm that would be caused by their attempt to deny a seat to a 71-year-old African-American.

“Reid operates in this tight, little circle with Durbin and [Sen. Charles] Schumer and [Sen. Patty] Murray,” complained one veteran Democratic senator, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “He needs to talk to more people, and maybe these kinds of situations won’t occur again.”

Other Democratic insiders put some of the blame on Obama, complaining that he kept his distance from the Burris controversy then jumped in at the end to claim the mantle of peacemaker — much as he did in the flap over Sen. Joe Lieberman’s support of Republican John McCain’s presidential bid.

“A lot of people were pissed” with how the Burris situation was handled, said a Democratic source involved in the discussions.

Yikes. But in fairness, with the exception of Sen. Diane Feinstein, I didn’t see too many other Democrats popping up to say, “This is dumb.”

Does this have any ramifications down the road? Well, the President-elect who, however briefly, did hold a Senate seat seems not to have mastered the art of dealing with former colleagues. Part of the problem stems from the natural inclination to run from the scene of disasters — which often seem to pop up in Harry Reid’s vicinity. And the Obama team hasn’t quite come to grips with the difference between a candidate and a party leader/President. The former could avoid comment and gently distance himself from miscreants; the latter has to resolve food fights before they spatter him. And yes, part of problems is that the Obama team, whether in dealing with Blago or in selecting Bill Richardson, has a tin ear for political scandal. So the relations with Capitol Hill may not be so cozy.

The article reveals another problem: the Senate Democrats don’t much like or respect Reid. Republicans might cackle that the Democrats are just coming around to this realization. Nevertheless, there is a difference between a Senate leader of the opposite party, whose job it is to annoy, frustrate and criticize the White House, and a Senate leader of the same party, whose job it is to build coalitions to pass the President’s agenda and grease the skids for legislation. Reid  seems spectacularly ill-suited to fill the latter role. But he’s the chosen leader, and unless more calamities befall the Senate, that’s the position in which Reid will remain. The Senate Democrats’ success (and many of their members’ re-election prospects) will depend as will, to a great extent, the Obama legislative agenda, on the extent of Reid’s finesse. Good luck, fellas.

Read Less

“Of Jewish Origin”

The letters section of today’s Guardian features a letter by 60-something signatories “of Jewish origin.” According to the signatories, “When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto.”

They go on to label the Palestinian Authority “Palestinian quislings,” blame Israel for the crisis, call for the British Ambassador to leave Tel Aviv, and propose a boycott on Israel.

The Guardian never misses a chance to give voice to those who are proud to be ashamed to be Jewish, especially when they think they can get away with their crass anti-Semitism by asserting their “Jewish origin.” Surely, this lot inserted that sentence both to give rhetorical strength to their letter and to pre-empt any accusation of anti-Semitism.

Well, as German columnist Henryk Broder recently noted, “There are nurses who kill their patients, attorneys who commit insurance fraud. Why can’t there not therefore be Jews who are anti-Semites?” There can be, and thanks to the Guardian we know who they are.

The letters section of today’s Guardian features a letter by 60-something signatories “of Jewish origin.” According to the signatories, “When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto.”

They go on to label the Palestinian Authority “Palestinian quislings,” blame Israel for the crisis, call for the British Ambassador to leave Tel Aviv, and propose a boycott on Israel.

The Guardian never misses a chance to give voice to those who are proud to be ashamed to be Jewish, especially when they think they can get away with their crass anti-Semitism by asserting their “Jewish origin.” Surely, this lot inserted that sentence both to give rhetorical strength to their letter and to pre-empt any accusation of anti-Semitism.

Well, as German columnist Henryk Broder recently noted, “There are nurses who kill their patients, attorneys who commit insurance fraud. Why can’t there not therefore be Jews who are anti-Semites?” There can be, and thanks to the Guardian we know who they are.

Read Less

Cheer Up, Mr. President-elect

Jonathan Chait raises the issue of whether President-elect Obama is “fabricating” bad economic news to drum up support for the stimulus plan. Chait concludes that, no, things really are bad.

There is plenty of reason to think Chait is right, starting with Friday’s employment statistics, but there is a danger to all the gloom-and-doom talk. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially in a recession predicated on fear and panic, it does no good to have a down-in-the-dumps Prognosticator-in-Chief. I understand he’s trying to lower expectations for his own sake. (What happens to the Democrats if things aren’t better by 2010?) But the risk is that the smoke-and-mirrors stimulus package, if it is to work, must work because consumer and business confidence is improved.

I’d opt for a more FDR or Reagan-type sunny demeanor and cut down on the pensive, furrowed-brow routine. We’re embarking on the great American renewal, right? So let the economists remind us how rotten things are. We don’t need the President-elect for that.

Jonathan Chait raises the issue of whether President-elect Obama is “fabricating” bad economic news to drum up support for the stimulus plan. Chait concludes that, no, things really are bad.

There is plenty of reason to think Chait is right, starting with Friday’s employment statistics, but there is a danger to all the gloom-and-doom talk. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially in a recession predicated on fear and panic, it does no good to have a down-in-the-dumps Prognosticator-in-Chief. I understand he’s trying to lower expectations for his own sake. (What happens to the Democrats if things aren’t better by 2010?) But the risk is that the smoke-and-mirrors stimulus package, if it is to work, must work because consumer and business confidence is improved.

I’d opt for a more FDR or Reagan-type sunny demeanor and cut down on the pensive, furrowed-brow routine. We’re embarking on the great American renewal, right? So let the economists remind us how rotten things are. We don’t need the President-elect for that.

Read Less

Corny

David Frum doesn’t need me to come to his defense. But this attack piece by David Corn, formerly Washington correspondent of the Nation, now at Mother Jones, is willfully inaccurate, and demonstrative of much of what’s wrong with the debate about the Arab-Israel conflict.

Yesterday, Frum had a piece on the website of the Week, in which he examined “Why Democrats recoil from Gaza,” citing a recent Rasmussen poll which found that 62% of Republicans supported Israel’s current military operation while only 31% of Democrats did. What are the reasons for this discrepancy? Frum lists four. First, he says, “Democrats are just generally less likely to support military actions by any nation, including the United States.” No one can argue with that. Second, and related, is that Democrats are more supportive of exhaustive negotiations, even with terrorist organizations. Third, is that “the more closely Americans follow the news, the more likely they are to support Israel. Yet more low-information voters are Democrats than Republicans.”

So far, there’s not much in this that even partisan Democrats — even ones who consider themselves more partial to Israel — would find objectionable.

It is Frum’s fourth point that angers Corn. “Democratic attitudes are poisoned by the influence of an anti-Zionist hard left, a vociferous faction whose ideology can bleed into outright anti-Semitism.” Corn dismisses Frum’s discussion of the three other factors — all of them more significant, in Frum’s analysis — and focuses only on this last, and most sensational, charge. Corn labels the “neocon former Bush speechwriter['s]” raising this point at all as playing “the anti-Semitism card,” and calls it “the main thrust of his article.”

Perhaps if Frum had said that anti-Semitism was the only, or major, reason “why Democrats recoil from Gaza,” it would be fair to say he was playing “the anti-Semitism card.” Yet exploration of this factor is not “the main thrust” of Frum’s argument; it’s the last of four. And rather than engage with these other points, Corn does what so many people antipathetic to Israel do, he falsely accuses his interlocutor of carelessly throwing around charges of anti-Semitism. Liberals do this almost as much as they accuse conservatives of “questioning their patriotism.” The techniques have a dual purpose: it makes one’s intellectual adversary look like an outright hysteric, and avoids debate of more salient issues. Frum never says nor implies that anything near a majority of Democrats who oppose Operation Cast Lead are anti-Semites; he’s merely saying that some of them are, as any cursory reading of the liberal netroots would demonstrate. By way of example, Frum cites some unpleasant comments left on Barack Obama’s transition website, many of them calling this week’s events a “holocaust.” He also could have pointed to any number of the nationwide anti-Israel or anti-Iraq War rallies over the past several years, many of which have been notable for their displays of anti-Semitism.

It is perfectly within Corn’s rights to dispute the allegation that anti-Semitism is responsible for at least part of Democratic antipathy to Israel, but he should argue the question on those terms and not substitute the most controversial part of Frum’s case for the whole. Ignoring the three other valid points Frum makes and accusing him of “attempting to taint that debate by suggesting that anti-Semitism is a major factor prompting Democrats (and others, presumably) to question the assault” is disingenuous. And Corn accuses Frum of wildly exaggerating the threat of left-wing anti-Semitism as a way to downplay its existence. Evidently, the phenomenon doesn’t seem to bother Corn all that much. He did, after all, spend twenty years at the Nation.

David Frum doesn’t need me to come to his defense. But this attack piece by David Corn, formerly Washington correspondent of the Nation, now at Mother Jones, is willfully inaccurate, and demonstrative of much of what’s wrong with the debate about the Arab-Israel conflict.

Yesterday, Frum had a piece on the website of the Week, in which he examined “Why Democrats recoil from Gaza,” citing a recent Rasmussen poll which found that 62% of Republicans supported Israel’s current military operation while only 31% of Democrats did. What are the reasons for this discrepancy? Frum lists four. First, he says, “Democrats are just generally less likely to support military actions by any nation, including the United States.” No one can argue with that. Second, and related, is that Democrats are more supportive of exhaustive negotiations, even with terrorist organizations. Third, is that “the more closely Americans follow the news, the more likely they are to support Israel. Yet more low-information voters are Democrats than Republicans.”

So far, there’s not much in this that even partisan Democrats — even ones who consider themselves more partial to Israel — would find objectionable.

It is Frum’s fourth point that angers Corn. “Democratic attitudes are poisoned by the influence of an anti-Zionist hard left, a vociferous faction whose ideology can bleed into outright anti-Semitism.” Corn dismisses Frum’s discussion of the three other factors — all of them more significant, in Frum’s analysis — and focuses only on this last, and most sensational, charge. Corn labels the “neocon former Bush speechwriter['s]” raising this point at all as playing “the anti-Semitism card,” and calls it “the main thrust of his article.”

Perhaps if Frum had said that anti-Semitism was the only, or major, reason “why Democrats recoil from Gaza,” it would be fair to say he was playing “the anti-Semitism card.” Yet exploration of this factor is not “the main thrust” of Frum’s argument; it’s the last of four. And rather than engage with these other points, Corn does what so many people antipathetic to Israel do, he falsely accuses his interlocutor of carelessly throwing around charges of anti-Semitism. Liberals do this almost as much as they accuse conservatives of “questioning their patriotism.” The techniques have a dual purpose: it makes one’s intellectual adversary look like an outright hysteric, and avoids debate of more salient issues. Frum never says nor implies that anything near a majority of Democrats who oppose Operation Cast Lead are anti-Semites; he’s merely saying that some of them are, as any cursory reading of the liberal netroots would demonstrate. By way of example, Frum cites some unpleasant comments left on Barack Obama’s transition website, many of them calling this week’s events a “holocaust.” He also could have pointed to any number of the nationwide anti-Israel or anti-Iraq War rallies over the past several years, many of which have been notable for their displays of anti-Semitism.

It is perfectly within Corn’s rights to dispute the allegation that anti-Semitism is responsible for at least part of Democratic antipathy to Israel, but he should argue the question on those terms and not substitute the most controversial part of Frum’s case for the whole. Ignoring the three other valid points Frum makes and accusing him of “attempting to taint that debate by suggesting that anti-Semitism is a major factor prompting Democrats (and others, presumably) to question the assault” is disingenuous. And Corn accuses Frum of wildly exaggerating the threat of left-wing anti-Semitism as a way to downplay its existence. Evidently, the phenomenon doesn’t seem to bother Corn all that much. He did, after all, spend twenty years at the Nation.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

More lobbyists are heading to the Obama administration. Change? Whatever.

President Bush correctly surmises that it was an error to try social security reform right after the 2004 election, a political miscalculation that doomed chances for immigration reform.

I don’t often recommend reading the The Nation - but I heartily suggest you read all of this hilarious riff on Princess Caroline.

Meanwhile Governor Paterson is getting quite huffy: “‘So I would ask the question back: Why do you all pay so much attention to her? She’s just another person. So what? Her name is Kennedy. Why do you pay so much attention to her? I’m not reacting to what I think, I’m reacting to what I see,’ he said. ‘But, on the other hand, her lack of elected experience does not help her, but the point is it’s the combination of experiences I’ll look at in terms of all the candidates, and also how balanced the ticket would look,’ Paterson added.” Some pretty brutal blind quotes as well.

A joint op-ed on Israel by Reps. Eric Cantor and Steny Hoyer concludes: “Like most Americans, we identify strongly with Israel’s ongoing, elusive quest to achieve peace and security in a dangerous part of the world. We recognize that by arming and training Hamas, Iran has made this latest Israel-Hamas war a key front in its effort to remake the region in its own radical image. America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana; and just as we assert our right to defend ourselves, Israel has every right to protect its own citizens from the implacable foes on its borders. Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative.”

Andy McCarthy is right: Eric Holder’s conduct in the pardon of the FALN terrorist is shocking. “We’ve heard a lot the last few years from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats about how shameful it is for an Attorney General to ‘politicize’ the Justice Department; to buck the views of professional, career prosecutors; and to engage in “secrecy” by withholding from Congress the administration’s deliberations on important policy matters.  Were they serious?” No, but they should be — and President-elect Obama should be thinking hard about whether Holder — in the era of Bill Richardson, Blago, etc. — is the right person at Justice.

The nominee for Secretary of Labor isn’t saying much of anything. Maybe this is a good thing — the easier it’ll be later on to dump bad ideas like card check legislation.

The culture of corruption is spreading. You have to look deep into the article to find out she’s a Democrat, but the Baltimore mayor  who indeed is a Democrat has been indicted on multiple counts of bribery and theft.

Haley Barbour makes a whole lot of sense, expresses himself well and has a track record of organizational success. Is there some reason he’s not running to head the RNC?

President-elect Obama is still in favor of dumping “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but it is the timing, you see, which is the hang-up. Hmm. Where have we heard this kind of talk before? Could it have been on the repeal of the Bush tax cuts? Might it be the new spin on card check? Later, later. (After the 2010 election? After 2012?) You wonder how long the Left is going to go along with this ploy.

With only a couple weeks to go, the Bush White House isn’t as leak proof as it used to be — as someone helpfully informs us which administration player took which position on this UN resolution. You’re not surprised Dick Cheney wanted to veto it, are you? (Or that the Secretary of Ludicrous Multi-lateral Deals wanted to agree to it.)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn hits on the right tone and strategy to combat the Democrats: “The President-Elect is learning how difficult Senate Democrats can be when you suggest that the taxpayer be allowed to keep just a little bit of their money. House Republicans have a support group for this and Mr. Obama is welcome to come by any time.” She’s following the triangulation strategy!

More lobbyists are heading to the Obama administration. Change? Whatever.

President Bush correctly surmises that it was an error to try social security reform right after the 2004 election, a political miscalculation that doomed chances for immigration reform.

I don’t often recommend reading the The Nation - but I heartily suggest you read all of this hilarious riff on Princess Caroline.

Meanwhile Governor Paterson is getting quite huffy: “‘So I would ask the question back: Why do you all pay so much attention to her? She’s just another person. So what? Her name is Kennedy. Why do you pay so much attention to her? I’m not reacting to what I think, I’m reacting to what I see,’ he said. ‘But, on the other hand, her lack of elected experience does not help her, but the point is it’s the combination of experiences I’ll look at in terms of all the candidates, and also how balanced the ticket would look,’ Paterson added.” Some pretty brutal blind quotes as well.

A joint op-ed on Israel by Reps. Eric Cantor and Steny Hoyer concludes: “Like most Americans, we identify strongly with Israel’s ongoing, elusive quest to achieve peace and security in a dangerous part of the world. We recognize that by arming and training Hamas, Iran has made this latest Israel-Hamas war a key front in its effort to remake the region in its own radical image. America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana; and just as we assert our right to defend ourselves, Israel has every right to protect its own citizens from the implacable foes on its borders. Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative.”

Andy McCarthy is right: Eric Holder’s conduct in the pardon of the FALN terrorist is shocking. “We’ve heard a lot the last few years from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats about how shameful it is for an Attorney General to ‘politicize’ the Justice Department; to buck the views of professional, career prosecutors; and to engage in “secrecy” by withholding from Congress the administration’s deliberations on important policy matters.  Were they serious?” No, but they should be — and President-elect Obama should be thinking hard about whether Holder — in the era of Bill Richardson, Blago, etc. — is the right person at Justice.

The nominee for Secretary of Labor isn’t saying much of anything. Maybe this is a good thing — the easier it’ll be later on to dump bad ideas like card check legislation.

The culture of corruption is spreading. You have to look deep into the article to find out she’s a Democrat, but the Baltimore mayor  who indeed is a Democrat has been indicted on multiple counts of bribery and theft.

Haley Barbour makes a whole lot of sense, expresses himself well and has a track record of organizational success. Is there some reason he’s not running to head the RNC?

President-elect Obama is still in favor of dumping “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but it is the timing, you see, which is the hang-up. Hmm. Where have we heard this kind of talk before? Could it have been on the repeal of the Bush tax cuts? Might it be the new spin on card check? Later, later. (After the 2010 election? After 2012?) You wonder how long the Left is going to go along with this ploy.

With only a couple weeks to go, the Bush White House isn’t as leak proof as it used to be — as someone helpfully informs us which administration player took which position on this UN resolution. You’re not surprised Dick Cheney wanted to veto it, are you? (Or that the Secretary of Ludicrous Multi-lateral Deals wanted to agree to it.)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn hits on the right tone and strategy to combat the Democrats: “The President-Elect is learning how difficult Senate Democrats can be when you suggest that the taxpayer be allowed to keep just a little bit of their money. House Republicans have a support group for this and Mr. Obama is welcome to come by any time.” She’s following the triangulation strategy!

Read Less